Tailgating & tradition

Entertainment

March 2, 2020



Don your seersucker and sundresses and get ready for the party: Queen’s Cup Steeplechase celebrates its Silver Jubilee in April.

by Cathy Martin

According to Bill and Carrington Price, it’s not really all about the horses. 

Of course, if it weren’t for the horses, there would be no reason to spend a spring afternoon in the company of friends and family, strolling the grounds of Brooklandwood while enjoying lavish tailgates and other festivities that go along with the annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase. April 25 marks the 25th anniversary of the annual event, with the races benefiting Alzheimer’s Association. 

For the Prices, the steeplechase actually is about the horses, but it wasn’t always that way.

“That’s what we grew up doing. We grew up going to the races in Maryland that were parties,” says Carrington, who co-chairs the event with her husband. “Then we got into the horses a little more as we got older.”

It was such a big part of their lives that the couple decided to introduce the tradition to their new community shortly after moving to the Queen City in 1984.

“We thought we’d bring a little of Baltimore to the Charlotte area,” Bill says. “When we first started this, and we started talking about racing, people were thinking NASCAR.”

Of course, horse racing wasn’t new to the Carolinas, but the number of steeplechase events has dwindled in recent years as track owners have gotten older and the equestrian community has shrunken — a result of the urbanization of America, Bill says. The Stoneybrook Steeplechase started in 1949 in Southern Pines and was discontinued in 2016. Brookhill had a 14-year run in Raleigh before it was canceled in 2007. Tanglewood in Winston-Salem ran from 1963 to 2002. 

The Prices launched the first Queen’s Cup in southern Union County in 1996, drawing more than 5,000 spectators. The following year, they purchased Brooklandwood, a 260-acre plot in the town of Mineral Springs, about 4 miles from downtown Waxhaw. After a $2.6 million investment to build the track and infrastructure, they moved the Queen’s Cup there in 2000.

Standing on the hill overlooking the racecourse, you might forget you’re in Union County, where in recent years farmland has slowly given way to sprawling subdivisions as Charlotte’s growth spreads south. When developers came calling at Brooklandwood, the Prices and their families hatched a plan to put the land into a conservation easement, donating the development rights to the Catawba Lands Conservancy and forever protecting the viewshed from development.

“No matter what happens, a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, this will be open space,” Bill says.

These days, about 13,000 spectators turn out in their best Southern finery for a day filled with tailgate contests, pony rides for children, Jack Russell terrier races and more. When the races are done, the day is capped with a Hot Walk Party — live music by the Kingdaddy Band and free hors d’oeuvres for all before the crowds head home.

“Most people that come to the races don’t know the front end from the back end of a horse,”  Bill says.

“And they don’t care, it’s not why they come,” adds Carrington. “It’s a multigenerational thing,” she says. “It’s a family event.”

So if spending a spring afternoon sipping cocktails, socializing and strolling in the countryside sounds like a good time, put on your preppiest attire and come for the party. It might just be the start of a new tradition — all while helping keep an old one alive. SP

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase will be held on April 25. Raffle tickets can be purchased online, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Alzheimer’s Association. The grand prize is $25,000, and you don’t need to be present to win. Gates open at 10 a.m.; morning activities include pony rides, Jack Russell terrier races and a hat contest. Opening ceremonies start at 12:30 p.m. The races — there are five of them — start at 1:30 p.m. and run until late afternoon. Gates close at 7 p.m. 

For information on purchasing tickets, go to queenscup.org.

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY QUEEN’S CUP STEEPLECHASE

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